In the break between minicamp and training camp, there are no planned team activities, but it's vital for each player to submerse himself in the playbook and remain on top of his physical conditioning. After four weeks of instructional practices (three weeks for the established veterans) wrapped up last Thursday, the Patriots are off until training camp starts in late July — July 25 for the rookies and July 29 for the veterans.
With that break, the players have to find a happy medium between too little and too much work. They need to stay fresh with the system, but they can't get burned out before the real work gets going.
"I wouldn’t call it down time," head coach Bill Belichick said last week. "I think that’s an important time for the players to get ready for the season. When they leave here, there will certainly be a lot of things that they’ll know they need to work on, things that they’ll be practicing in their individual workouts that they probably haven’t done as much of early in the spring.
"When you get closer to training camp, you’ve got to prepare for a camp atmosphere and the football season. The training shifts at that point, so I think from a mental standpoint, they’ll be reviewing the things and the information we’ve given them over the past few weeks, and they’ll also be working on specific techniques and drills that we’ve done at their position. And they’ll be working on their conditioning levels to get them at the best they can to head into training camp."
The Patriots had 12 days of voluntary organized team activities and three days of mandatory minicamp during the last month. Each day consisted of meetings, film sessions and a practice, which spanned about an hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes — days that were similar to those in the regular season, by itinerary if not intensity.
From here, the Patriots will scatter the globe. Some, like rookie wide receiver Taylor Price, who could only participate in three minicamp sessions, will stay in Foxboro for the majority of the next few weeks to get a jump on training camp. Others will return home to train, and likely all of them will go somewhere on vacation.
Belichick was pleased with the team's spring, saying they built a "good foundation" before training camp. He'll watch tape and meet with the other coaches to evaluate the last four weeks before making a final assessment of the team's progress. Then, Belichick will formulate a plan for training camp.
And after that? Well, Belichick isn’t exactly a football robot. Like everyone else, he too will venture away from Gillette to take a mental break.
"Take a little time to get away," Belichick said. "See if I can keep the ball in the fairway, maybe see if the fish are biting."